UN Security Council presses Nkurunziza to end violence


Added 23rd January 2016 02:55 PM

Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe, speaking after meeting the envoys, said the government had "not changed our position" on the AU force

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UN Security Council ambassadors gather to meet the Burundian President at his residence outside Bujumbura. AFP Photo

Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe, speaking after meeting the envoys, said the government had "not changed our position" on the AU force

UN Security Council ambassadors met Burundi's leaders on Friday to push peace efforts amid renewed violence in the capital of the troubled central African nation.

The visit is the council's second to Burundi in less than a year, with the ambassadors on Friday travelling outside the capital Bujumbura to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza at his residence, in an appeal to take urgent action to stop the violence sparked by his re-election.

Council envoys have pushed for the government to hold talks with the opposition and agree to an international presence -- such as a proposed 5,000-strong African Union force -- to restore stability.

Burundi's government has branded AU peacekeepers an "invasion force" and insisted there is no need for foreign troops.

Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe, speaking after meeting the envoys, said the government had "not changed our position" on the AU force.

Clashes in Bujumbura overnight Thursday left three people dead, police said, in violence that has become a near nightly event in the city. Explosions and gunfire were heard in several places across the capital at night.

The 15 council members were greeted on arrival Thursday by pro-government demonstrators telling them to stop meddling.

Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators lined the road leading from the airport to greet the envoys with signs that read "genocide will not happen" and "stop interfering in Burundian affairs".

They UN first met Friday morning with Vice President Gaston Sindimwo, who admitted to the diplomats that it was "true there are problems," but insisted "the government will do everything in its power to bring peace and security."

More than 400 people have died since April, when Nkurunziza announced his ultimately successful re-election bid, and at least 230,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.

The UN has warned that the violence could escalate into ethnic killings and mass atrocities.


Talks and peacekeepers 

AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has expressed "fervent hope" that the UN ambassadors would work towards achieving the rapid deployment of peacekeepers and the "immediate resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue", a reference to stalled talks between the government and opposition.

Uganda hosted a meeting between the government and the opposition in December that resolved nothing, and further planned talks failed to take place.

The United States and France support the AU proposal, but other UN Security Council members such as Russia, Angola and Egypt are reluctant to put too much pressure on the government.

Nkurunziza is also balking at AU plans to deploy more rights monitors in Burundi while the United Nations is beefing up its presence in Bujumbura.

Council envoys travel to Addis Ababa on Saturday to meet with AU officials about the proposal, which is expected to be a key element of talks at an AU summit in Ethiopia on January 30-31.

On Thursday, two former Burundian presidents appealed to the council ambassadors to take action and pleaded for an AU force to be sent.

"We really need that force," said Domitien Ndayizeye, who led the landlocked nation from 2003-2005.

Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, in power from 1976 to 1987, urged the council envoys to "stop this bloodletting that is making our young people disappear".

Bagaza warned that without urgent international action, Burundi could "become another Rwanda", referring to the neighbouring country's 1994 genocide.

Hours before the UN diplomats arrived, Burundian rebels named a fugitive ex-general who fled after leading a failed coup bid in May as their leader.

The rebel force, which announced its formation in December, calls itself the Republican Forces of Burundi, or "Forebu" after its French acronym.

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